Starling Days & Ruth Ozeki and the Zen Hybrid Novel

Buchanan, Rowan (2019) Starling Days & Ruth Ozeki and the Zen Hybrid Novel. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

Many years ago, I started to collect books by mixed race writers. It was an attempt to understand
the stories of people like me. Yet often, they were nothing like me. The only thing we had in
common was that we didn’t quite belong in any other category. Some emphasized their sense of
separation or of broken identity. Others described how they found links between nationalities
and cultures. This thesis is comprised of a novel about characters uneasy in the categories into
which they are assigned and a critical essay on how Ruth Ozeki in A Tale for the Time Being uses
Zen Buddhism to describe a deeply connected hybrid self.

Part 1: Starling Days, a novel Starling Days opens on the George Washington Bridge. Mina is staring into the water when a
patrol car drives up. She tries to convince the officers she’s not about to jump but they don’t
believe her.
The novel explores the aftermath of this moment. In search of peace, Mina and her
husband, Oscar, move to London. An adjunct classics professor, Mina tries to understand her
failing mental health through mythology, gynecology, and her memories of her Chinese
grandmother. Oscar’s ability to care for her weakens as family and work begin to pressure him.
As the narrative and their relationship fragment the text explores the concept of self, the taboos
of mental health and the trials of holding a family together when you cannot hold onto yourself.

Part 2: Ruth Ozeki and the Zen Hybrid Novel “Ruth Ozeki and the Zen Hybrid Novel” examines how one writer uses Zen philosophy to
navigate the hybridity in her work. Ozeki’s novel, A Tale for the Time Being, models a hybridity
based in the Buddhist theory of interconnectedness. Ozeki is a Japanese Caucasian American
woman living in Canada and A Tale for the Time Being is set in Canada and Japan. Both Zen and

hybridity appear in every level of the novel—setting, character, form, and linguistic play.
First the thesis explores the history of the I-novel as a reaction to the influx of American
and European forces into Japan. It then examines how Ozeki combines the I-novel with
metafiction and how Ozeki uses Zen Buddhism to bridge seemingly disparate senses of self.
Finally, it argues that the Zen employed by Ozeki is a hybrid Zen that draws on both Japanese
and American influences distinct from a historically more nationalistic Zen. This hybrid Zen
holds the book together form the way she uses individual hybrid words like ‘supapawa’ all the
way out to the epitext of the promotional video.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature and Creative Writing
Depositing User: Katherine Whittaker
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2020 09:33
Last Modified: 17 Feb 2020 09:33
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/74231
DOI:

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